A parent’s inspiring memoir, full of love, humor, and heartache.



A mother faces her child’s congenital heart condition in this debut book.

Mayer opens her work in December 1984, when she and her husband, Helmut, received alarming news about their only child, Marc, a mere 13 days after his birth. The jarring title came from the mouth of a cardiologist who gravely and insensitively assessed Marc’s prognosis at the beginning of their journey. Mayer, aghast, remembers thinking, “Incompatible with nature? What did that mean? Was I some kind of monster? How do you look a mother in her face and utter such a thing?” What sets this memoir apart is the author’s distinct sense of cultural displacement as an African-American woman living in Germany with a rudimentary grasp of the language at best. Consequently, a situation that was already stressful became even more exasperating as she struggled to communicate with medical professionals. Mayer, however, is courteous to her readers: on the few occasions when German is not directly translated into English, she provides enough context clues to convey the message in a comfortable and unobtrusive manner. Critically, her family in the Seattle area lent great support despite the distance, whether on the phone or through inherited refrains that Mayer invoked in times of crisis, such as “ain’t no givin’ up and no givin’ out” or “let go and let God.” These examples are indicative of the linguistic richness to be found throughout the text. There are also moments of humor despite the heavy subject matter, including this gem from the author’s mother that Mayer suddenly recalled during an awkward silence after she questioned the head doctor’s account of the treatments Marc had received on a particular day: “It’s so quiet you can hear a mouse piss on cotton.” Beyond the chronological reporting in this testament to a parent’s strength, the author shares lessons learned as a child and young adult via poignant flashbacks, especially regarding her relationship with her father. Thus, in addition to recounting harrowing events surrounding Marc’s condition, she allows herself space to reflect on philosophical notions like the slippery nature of time: “Out of reach, uncontrollable, too much and never enough, indeed it is too often the most mangled thread in the fabric of our human existence.”

A parent’s inspiring memoir, full of love, humor, and heartache.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5372-0129-0

Page Count: 358

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.


The creator and host of the titular podcast recounts his lifelong struggles with depression.

With the increasing success of his podcast, Moe, a longtime radio personality and author whose books include The Deleted E-Mails of Hillary Clinton: A Parody (2015), was encouraged to open up further about his own battles with depression and delve deeper into characteristics of the disease itself. Moe writes about how he has struggled with depression throughout his life, and he recounts similar experiences from the various people he has interviewed in the past, many of whom are high-profile entertainers and writers—e.g. Dick Cavett and Andy Richter, novelist John Green. The narrative unfolds in a fairly linear fashion, and the author relates his family’s long history with depression and substance abuse. His father was an alcoholic, and one of his brothers was a drug addict. Moe tracks how he came to recognize his own signs of depression while in middle school, as he experienced the travails of OCD and social anxiety. These early chapters alternate with brief thematic “According to THWoD” sections that expand on his experiences, providing relevant anecdotal stories from some of his podcast guests. In this early section of the book, the author sometimes rambles. Though his experiences as an adolescent are accessible, he provides too many long examples, overstating his message, and some of the humor feels forced. What may sound naturally breezy in his podcast interviews doesn’t always strike the same note on the written page. The narrative gains considerable momentum when Moe shifts into his adult years and the challenges of balancing family and career while also confronting the devastating loss of his brother from suicide. As he grieved, he writes, his depression caused him to experience “a salad of regret, anger, confusion, and horror.” Here, the author focuses more attention on the origins and evolution of his series, stories that prove compelling as well.

The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20928-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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